Naseby? I PUBLISHED it,' replied the editor, rising.
'My father is an old man,' said Richard; and then with an outburst, 'And a damned sight finer fellow than either you or Dalton!' He stopped and swallowed; he was determined that all should go with regularity. 'I have but one question to put to you, sir,' he resumed. 'Granted that my father was misinformed, would it not have been more decent to withhold the letter and communicate with him in private?'
'Believe me,' returned the editor, 'that alternative was not open to me. Mr. Naseby told me in a note that he had sent his letter to three other journals, and in fact threatened me with what he called exposure if I kept it back from mine. I am really concerned at what has happened; I sympathise and approve of your emotion, young gentleman; but the attack on Mr. Dalton was gross, very gross, and I had no choice but to offer him my columns to reply. Party has its duties, sir,' added the scribe, kindling, as one who should propose a sentiment; 'and the attack was gross.'
Richard stood for half a minute digesting the answer; and then the god of fair play came upper-most in his heart, and murmuring 'Good morning,' he made his escape into the street.
His horse was not hurried on the way home, and he was late for breakfast. The Squire was standing with his back to the fire in a state bordering on apoplexy, his fingers violently knitted under his coat tails. As Richard came in, he opened and shut his mouth like a cod-fish, and his eyes protruded.
'Have you seen that, sir?' he cried, nodding towards the paper.
'Yes, sir,' said Richard.
'Oh, you've read it, have you?'
'Yes, I have read it,' replied Richard, looking at his foot.
'Well,' demanded the old gentleman, 'and what have you to say to it, sir?'
'You seem to have been misinformed,' said Dick.
'Well? What then? Is your mind so sterile, sir? Have you not a word of comment? no proposal?'
'I fear, sir, you must apologise to Mr. Dalton. It would be more handsome, indeed it would be only just, and a free acknowledgment would go far - ' Richard paused, no language appearing delicate enough to suit the case.
'That is a suggestion which should have come from me, sir,' roared the father. 'It is out of place upon your lips. It is not the thought of a loyal son. Why, sir, if my father had been plunged in such deplorable circumstances, I should have thrashed the editor of that vile sheet within an inch of his life. I should have thrashed the man, sir. It would have been the action of an ass; but it would have shown that I had the blood and the natural affections of a man. Son? You are no son, no son of mine, sir!'
'Sir!' said Dick.
'I'll tell you what you are, sir,' pursued the Squire. 'You're a Benthamite. I disown you. Your mother would have died for shame; there was no modern cant about your mother; she thought - she said to me, sir - I'm glad she's in her grave, Dick Naseby. Misinformed! Misinformed, sir? Have you no loyalty, no spring, no natural affections? Are you clockwork, hey? Away! This is no place for you. Away!' (waving his hands in the air). 'Go away! Leave me!'
At this moment Dick beat a retreat in a disarray of nerves, a whistling and clamour of his own arteries, and in short in such a final bodily disorder as made him alike incapable of speech or hearing. And in the midst of all this turmoil, a sense of unpardonable injustice remained graven in his memory.
CHAPTER III - IN THE ADMIRAL'S NAME
THERE was no return to the subject. Dick and his father were henceforth on terms of coldness. The upright old gentleman grew more upright when he met his son, buckrammed with immortal anger; he asked after Dick's health, and discussed the weather and the crops with an appalling courtesy; his pronunciation was POINT-DE-VICE, his voice was distant, distinct, and sometimes almost trembling with suppressed indignation.
As for Dick, it seemed to him as if his life had come abruptly to an end.